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March 22. 2013 11:02PM

Wellness Week ends with health fair in Weare

WEARE - Center Woods Elementary School students ended Wellness Week with a fair celebrating all things healthy Friday.

In addition to sampling healthy snacks, students engaged in physical activity that included jumping rope, Zumba and Speed Stack competitions.

"It's really about keeping kids healthy - being active and eating the right foods," said Patricia MacNeil, school nurse at Center Woods.

Parent volunteers served up healthy snacks, including veggies with various dips, fruit salad and yogurt.

MacNeil said that with the increase in video game use in children, it's more important than ever for kids to keep moving.

"Kids need to know that our bodies are meant to be active," MacNeil said.

One group that may find it difficult to be active is those with mobility issues, and the fair brought some of those challenges into focus, with a wheelchair obstacle course and representatives from the New Hampshire Association for the Blind teaching children how to navigate with a white cane.

"The theme of the health fair is 'Keep Every Body Healthy,' and there is some special needs awareness here," MacNeil said.

Amy Nichols, who represented the NH Association for the Blind, was pleased by the turnout of children that came to see her and her service dog, Opal.

"The kids seemed to love it," she said. "They were asking great questions and really listening - and of course, they loved the dog."

Jessica Chisolm, a third grade special education teacher, said the obstacle course gave students a sense of empathy for their challenged peers.

"One of our students in a wheelchair got to show off his ability to maneuver the chair, and he was proud," she said. "It was difficult for some of the other kids to do."

Jon Van Ham, physical education teacher, said physical fitness isn't just good for the body, it is also important for social development in children.

Van Ham said technology, including video games and computers, has gotten better and more attractive to kids, but it's all about balance.

"At least now they're building physical activity into things like the Wii," he said.

MacNeil said that while eating well and staying active keeps school absences down, there may be one prevailing factor.

"Healthy kids learn better - that's proven," she said.

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